Bujutsu and Shugyo Spirit
November 1, 1996 · 9:20pm EST · Posted by Fujiyama Dojo
Fujiyama Dojo
P.O. Box 20003
Thorold, ON, Canada
L2V 5B3
(905) 680-6389
There are times in which we wonder about the reasons for training, the reasons for spending time at the dojo or in solo practice. Sometimes it may seem futile, and look like a wasteful way to use precious hours. Those are natural thoughts, common attitudes for someone who has not yet learned what true Bujutsu or Budo, is all about. Shugyo spirit has been common to many martial arts since its early days. The diligent training, the single-mindedness of the individual to develop each technique to the very best of his abilities shaped each art and created legendary warriors.

In many cases the attitude was that of Mushashugyo or itinerant training, a way chosen by many samurai, in order to develop their skills.

In other cases, shugyo included ascetic training in the mountains or other isolated regions, where the warrior would train himself under harsh conditions in a test of will and determination.

Some teachers have changed the meaning of shugyo, and call it Ki Bi Shii Kunren (Severe training) because they believe shugyo spirit cannot be achieved in our time any longer, because students devotion to training has grown soft and many live pampered lives that render them incapable of self-discipline; they abound in laziness and selfishness, making their tempers loud, their minds shallow and their spirits weak.

Shugyo can be translated as diligent training or devoted training. It described the attitude of the student, in his personal training, not in the dojo. Shugyo measures the true spirit of the student when he has to move at his or her own pace. Many teachers consider luke warmness to be not much different from hypocrisy, and the sure path to stagnation. So important is this concept that in Budo and Bujutsu, the suffix ka in the term Budoka implies mastery, so that many call themselves Shugosha, which is to say not masters of an art, but "someone who works very hard at it."

Can proficiency in bujutsu be attained without this spirit? Not according to the majority of teachers. Any progress made in this way would be superficial. The true faithfulness and fiber of a student is measured by what he does outside of the dojo, not during class. If true shugyo exists, a student can be trusted to represent the honor of the art at any and all times.

However, some students may succumb to pressure from the easier ways. On one occasion, Nakamura-sensei (a teacher of Daito ryu) was admonishing a novice whose attitude was less than correct. The student dared not answer him, but went to his sempai and complained, "I cannot live Daito ryu twenty-four hours a day. I feel I'm choked with it. I need time to be myself."

Nakamura-sensei overheard him and asked, "What do you mean?"

The student explained, shyly but emphatically, "I need time to do things I enjoy."

"I have not said anything against that.", Nakamura-sensei replied.

But the student insisted, "You have advised against smoking and drinking. You even advised against having friends who encourage us to do these things."

Nakamura-sensei thought for a moment and then asked, "Do you mean that these things are what you want time for, away from Daito ryu?"

The student nodded. Nakamura-sensei's face seemed darker somehow when he replied, "Then what you need time for is to be stupid. I can't tell you what to do. I only advise. I can only hope that Daito ryu will soon weigh more against your vices, than your vices are now weighing against your Daito ryu. You can't be two opposites. One would be real, the other a lie."

"I can't change so drastically in so short a time.", the student protested.

Nakamura-sensei answered as he slowly walked away, "First we make the decisions. Then the decisions will make us. I choke you with nothing. You are doing a fine job by yourself."

"But Sensei, I don't see any contradiction!", the student pleaded.

The teacher calmly replied, "Of course not. And you won't see it, until you realize that until you change, you ARE the contradiction."

In today's world, Shugyo spirit may not be retreat in the mountains, but a faithful daily training of taijutsu (empty handed techniques) or bukiwaza (weapons techniques), a strong concept of self-discipline and an attitude becoming to a student of an aiki-art. If what we need is "time to be stupid," we have not yet learned a single thing about life. Not just as Budoka, but as human beings.

A teacher who emphasizes Shugyo spirit may sometimes have a negative reaction from the students. Some may find it excessive, or unfair. But if he doesn't do it, he wouldn't be a teacher at all.


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